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Depressive Symptoms Associated with Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases

Dec 15 2020
Understanding the relationship between mental and physical health is critical to improve quality of life for people living with mental illness. According to findings from an international team of researchers, depressive symptoms – even those that do not meet the threshold for diagnosis of a depressive condition – may play a role in future poor heart health. Researchers analyzed data from over 500,000 individuals and found that the presence of depressive symptoms showed a modest association with heart problems such as coronary heart disease and stroke, even after accounting for additional risk factors like smoking and diabetes. To learn more, see the study in JAMA.
 

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Content Analysis of Rap Music Shows Increased References to Mental Health

Dec 07 2020
Awareness and visibility of mental health have increased across popular culture, and new research demonstrates that this trend includes rap music. Researchers conducted a content analysis of 125 rap songs popular in the U.S. between 1998 and 2018 and found that mental health references increased significantly over the 20-year period. Overall, 28% of the songs referenced anxiety, 22% referenced depression, 6% referenced suicide, and 21% used a mental health metaphor. As many of the artists whose music was analyzed were younger Black men, this increased visibility of mental health issues could represent an important shift in discourse in a particularly vulnerable population. To learn more, see the study in JAMA Pediatrics.
 

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Multimodal Machine-Learning Models May Improve Predictability of Transition to Psychosis

Dec 02 2020
Early identification can improve outcomes for individuals at high risk of developing psychosis, and multimodal machine-learning models may be able to help. In a study comparing participants with clinical high risk syndromes or recent-onset depression to healthy volunteers, researchers used a machine-learning model incorporating clinical and neurocognitive data, structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI), and polygenic risk scores for schizophrenia to predict development of psychosis. The model accurately predicted transition to psychosis in 85.9% of cases, compared to 73.2% of cases predicted by clinicians. The model showed greater predictive accuracy than any individual predictive factor alone. To learn more, see the study in JAMA Psychiatry.
 

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Specific Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder May Predict Suicide Attempts

Nov 18 2020

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a challenging and often misunderstood illness, and is associated with a high risk for attempted suicide. Reducing this risk requires more detailed understanding to improve screening and intervention. New research sought to explore the symptoms of BPD and determine which most contribute to increased risk of suicidal behavior. Using 10-year longitudinal data, researchers found that specific symptoms such as identity disturbance, frantic efforts to avoid abandonment, and feelings of emptiness were the most highly correlated with suicide attempt. The researchers note that these symptoms are often under-studied in the context of suicide, compared to symptoms such as impulsivity. To learn more, see the study in JAMA Psychiatry.

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Rodent Model Shows Cannabis Use During Pregnancy May Impact Offspring Cognitive and Social Function

Nov 15 2020
As cannabis use rises in popularity, it is increasingly important to understand its health impacts. To create a realistic simulation of human cannabis use, researchers delivered vaporized cannabis to a population of pregnant rats using e-cigarette technology. Offspring exposed to vaporized cannabis exhibited higher degrees of emotional reactivity and social timidity as juveniles, and anxiety-like behaviors in adulthood, compared to those exposed to vehicle exhaust vapor or no vapor. While this study provides early information on prenatal exposure to cannabis, more research is needed to draw reliable conclusions about long-term health effects. To learn more, see the study in Neuropharmacology.
 

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COVID-19 Infection Associated with Increased Incidence of Psychiatric Symptoms

Nov 09 2020

As we learn more about COVID-19, it is becoming clear that its effects extend beyond physical health. Based on analysis of nearly 70 million electronic health records, researchers found that COVID-19 patients have an increased risk of developing psychiatric symptoms in the 14 to 90 days following diagnosis, compared to people who have experienced other health issues like the flu or a broken bone. Over 18% of COVID-19 patients received a psychiatric diagnosis within 90 days; 5.8% of which were first-time diagnoses. Past-year psychiatric illness was also associated with increased risk of COVID-19 infection, suggesting a complex relationship between the disease and mental health. To learn more, see the study in The Lancet.

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Modified Exposure Therapy with Unconscious Exposure Reduces Fear in Specific Phobia

Nov 01 2020

Exposure therapy is a well-known and effective strategy for reducing symptoms of anxiety disorders. However, directly confronting the object of one’s fears can be extremely distressing. New research suggests that a “very brief exposure” (VBE) therapy may be equally effective with a lower burden of distress. Researchers exposed a group of young women with arachnophobia to a rapidly-changing set of images that included hidden images of spiders. Although the images appeared too quickly for participants to consciously detect, VBE reduced avoidance responses when participants were later presented with a live spider. To learn more, see the study in The Lancet.

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Fewer Acute Mental Health Care Admissions During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Oct 20 2020
According to new research, admissions to an acute adult mental health unit in Leicester, U.K. decreased in the month following enactment of COVID-19 quarantine and travel measures. Researchers compared admissions to similar periods in 2018 and 2019. A higher percentage of patients admitted in early 2020 were diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and a lower percentage with anxiety or depression, compared to prior years. The study represents just one look at mental health service use in the context of pandemic-related restrictions; additional research is needed to understand the full effect of COVID-19 on mental health systems. To learn more, see the study in Psychiatric Services.
 

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Combining Medication and Skills-Based Therapy More Effective than Treatment as Usual in Bipolar Disorder

Oct 14 2020
Finding the right treatment for bipolar disorder can be a challenging process. But according to new research, a combination approach involving medication and standardized, skills-based therapy may be a good place to start. Researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 39 clinical trials comparing treatment with medication plus various types of psychotherapy to treatment with medication plus a control intervention. When combined with medication therapy, psychoeducation, family, and cognitive behavioral therapy were associated with a reduction in episode recurrence. Additionally, cognitive behavioral therapy was associated with a greater stabilization of depressive symptoms. To learn more, see the study in JAMA Psychiatry.

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Brief Interventions in Acute Care Settings Reduce Suicide Attempts, Improve Follow-Up Care

Sep 16 2020
Research has shown that half of individuals who die by suicide had seen a health care provider in the past month. By directly addressing risk factors and connecting people to supportive care, health care providers can make a difference. A new study shows that brief interventions like safety planning, coordinating outpatient mental health appointments, and conducting follow-up phone calls significantly reduce subsequent suicide attempts. The research demonstrates that these interventions are effective in hospitals, urgent care, and emergency departments and highlights the importance of screening for suicide risk at health care appointments. To learn more, see the NIMH website.